US Stamps

Early printings of U.S. 1931 postage due stamps hard to find

Jul 13, 2022, 8 AM
Look for early printings of the 1931 United States dull carmine 30¢ and 50¢ Numeral postage due stamps.

Stamp Market Tips by Henry Gitner and Rick Miller

The Scott postage stamp catalogs list postage stamps that show payment for special or additional services or other postal purposes after the stamps that show payment of regular postage. Hence, they are called back-of-the-book stamps.

Many collectors of U.S. stamps take their collections of regular postage stamps as far as they can go before turning to the back-of-the-book stamps. Conversely, some collectors specialize in a single type of back-of-the-book stamps.

Postage due stamps are listed in the back-of-the-book section with catalog numbers prefixed by the letter “J.”

Quoting the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers: “Postage due stamps were authorized by an act of Congress, approved March 3, 1879, and effective July 1, 1879. By law, postage due stamps were to be affixed by clerks to any piece of mailable matter to denote the amount collected from the addressee because of insufficient prepayment of postage.”

In 1931, the Post Office Department issued a new set of Numeral postage due stamps with denominations from ½¢ to 50¢ (Scott J79-J86).

These stamps were in use until 1959. They were issued in two shades. The earlier printings were in dull carmine, a dark reddish color. The later printings were in bright scarlet.

The Scott U.S. Specialized catalog values for stamps in either shade are about the same. Finding the stamps from the earlier printings in the dull carmine shade in very fine grade and mint, never-hinged condition is a challenge. They are much scarcer than the scarlet shade of the later printings.

The 30¢ and 50¢ stamps in dull carmine (Scott J85 and J86) are especially hard to find. The Scott U.S. Specialized catalog values them at $11.50 and $15, respectively, in mint, never-hinged condition. If you find them offered at that price, they are a great buy, because they are worth more than that.

The same holds true for the dull carmine plate number blocks of four. The scarlet plate number blocks of four are still desirable in very fine grade, but they are common.

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